My very first backpacking trip abroad was a two-month solo journey across Europe — although I didn’t plan it to be that way. I was supposed to go with a friend, but about two months before our departure, she had to cancel.
At first, I wanted to sack the whole trip off, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised I’d actually been planning this big trip for months and months and I’d been dreaming about it for years and years! Plus I’d already bought the non-refundable plane ticket, which cost me a bomb so I started researching solo travel and started to get my head around the fact I was going to be spending two months on my own in Europe. The more I researched it, the more I came to realize that solo travel sounded amazing. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it.
The more I researched the idea of traveling alone as a woman, the more I came to realize that solo travel sounded amazing. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it. I’ve got some tips and advice for solo female travelers in Europe. These are the things I wish I would have known before I traveled to Europe alone.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
The first week of traveling solo was without doubt, the toughest for me. I was still a little timid, and I tended to keep to myself. I would spend all day walking around and then come back to the hostel and not have anyone to talk to.
Then one night I decided to cook a meal for myself at the hostel. I went down to the kitchen and there was another solo female traveler trying to organize a group meal. She asked me if I wanted to chip in a little money, and she would make a big meal for whoever was interested.
There ended up being around 15 people who gathered for the meal. It was a ton of fun and everyone had a great time. I finally met a lot of people, and I spent the next two days hanging out with the girl who organized the meal. And that is when I realized that solo travelers have to put a bit of effort into meeting people. From that point on I had very little trouble meeting people.
Why Solo Travel Is Great
I don’t know why more people don’t embrace traveling solo – especially in Europe. Below are some of my top reasons why I loved traveling solo, but you can read a lot more general advice about traveling solo here.
Freedom To Travel
Any solo traveler will tell you how amazing it is to be able to do whatever you want. Want to spend all day in a museum? No problem. Want to sit in a park for 3 hours? Go for it. Want to eat at McDonalds? Supersize it.
Do whatever you want because you don’t have to ask what your travel partners want to do.
Money is another tricky subject when it comes to travel. Often groups of people don’t want to spend money on the same things. For example, your friend might want to eat bread and cheese everyday, but you want to have one or two nice meals. These differences often lead to one party not being happy.
Meet More People
Traveling solo forces you to put yourself out there to meet new people. Plus, solo travel is becoming more popular, and you’re bound to run into a lot of travelers who are happy to hang out with other solo people.
I also found that a lot of groups openly invited me to hang out with them, which I found was great. In fact, I probably got invited along about 4x more than when I traveled with friends.
Traveling alone makes you become more confident and self-reliant. Plus, I feel like it makes you a better person and helps you to realise what you do and don’t actually want from your life. As they say, it’s good for the soul.
Easier To Couchsurf
Couchsurfing is an amazing way to meet locals and save a bit of cash. Most Couchsurfing hosts don’t have a lot of room, so solo travelers have an easier time securing a spot. Some people recommend finding a female host for safety reasons. I’ve stayed with hosts that were a family (husband, wife, and kids) and that has worked out fine. Just be sure to read the reviews to hear what former guests have said.
Do An Open Top Bus Tour
I know it sounds corny, but I like to use one of those hop on/hop off bus tours the first day I arrive in a major city because it allows me to get a better idea of how the city is laid out. Then when I’m exploring the city by foot I have a little better idea of where I am in relation to other sights.
Safety Advice For Solo Women Travelers
The main reason why females don’t travel alone usually boils down to safety concerns and it is smart to be vigilant when you’re traveling alone. I know I felt safer walking the streets in Europe than I do in the US. The advice in this section is all pretty much common sense stuff, but it is a good idea to read through them so they’re fresh in your mind.
The best safety advice I could give a solo traveler, or any traveler for that matter, is to simply be aware of your surroundings. That doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid about everything, but it is important to have an idea of what is going on around you.
Protect Your Bag Or Purse
Probably the biggest threat to traveling women is getting your purse or bag snatched. I suggest keeping your bag in your lap. If you have a larger bag that is uncomfortable to keep in your lap then make sure you loop the shoulder strap around the leg of your chair so someone can’t run by and snatch it away.
Find A Buddy (Or A Group) When Going Out At Night
It might not be fair, but women need to be more vigilant when they’re out at night. That is why I always went out with other people — usually from my hostel. Remember… safety in numbers.
Act Like You’re Supposed To Be There
It seems that timid travelers are the ones who usually get taken advantage of. Their fear and timidness show through, and predators can pick up on this. That is why you need to always act like you belong. Act like you know exactly where you are going. Exude confidence! Walk with purpose — even if you are lost. As a female traveling alone this is an important thing to remember.
Listen To Your Gut
When you’re traveling alone it is important to listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.
Personally, I had the most difficult time listening to my instincts when I was with a group of people. I felt a little uneasy about speaking up to a bunch of people I’d just met a few hours before in the hostel. But that is something I just had to get over.
Avoid Dangerous Situations With Alcohol
We’ve all done some dumb things while drinking, but we’re usually around friends. I don’t have to tell you that getting really drunk in an unfamiliar city with a bunch of people you don’t know very well isn’t the best idea.
Pickpocket Proof Bags
I’ve never used them, but a lot of travelers like these pickpocket proof bags from Pacsafe. They have features like puncture proof and lockable zippers, steel mesh sewn into the bag’s fabric the bag can’t be cup open, and a few other anti-theft features. For more information about pickpockets read our guide to pickpockets in Europe.
Pay Attention In Confusing Situations
Thieves rely on creating confusion in order to make you let your guard down. They’ll do things like putting a newspaper in front of your face while someone else takes things from you bag, or a group of people will all push onto a metro car at the last minute while they try to pickpocket you or a cashier will purposely give you the incorrect change back. There are all kinds of things thieves will do. Your best defense is keeping calm and making sure you know what is going on.
Make Copies Of Passports, Credit Cards, And Other Important Documents
You’ve probably already read about the importance of keeping a few photocopies of your passport. Additionally, I like to email myself a scan or save a copy to my Google Docs. That way you have a copy of it easily available if you somehow lose the physical copies. This also works great with any other important documents or credit cards.
Put A Ring On It
The most common piece of advice is it wear a fake wedding band as this will deter most would-be Rico Suaves.
One thing that took me a while to realize is that looking a stranger in the eye is often a sign that you’re interested or flirting with them. Even an accidental glance gives many guys the impression that you want to chat. The easiest way to avoid these situations is by wearing sunglasses… but you’re on your own when you’re inside or at night.
Cut The Chit-Chat
If some guy starts talking to you (and you’re not interested in talking to him) then you should simply ignore him. When I first arrived in Paris guys would nonchalantly talk to me on the Metro and I would respond mainly out of courtesy. The fact that you respond to them is their “foot in the door” and they would continue trying to chat me up. A lot of women I’ve talked to suggested wearing a pair of earbuds (without music actually playing) while on public transportation as this is a clear sign that you don’t want to chat.
Final Thoughts About Women Traveling Solo In Europe
If you can find friends to travel with then that’s great, but don’t let the lack of a travel buddy deter you from taking the trip you’ve always wanted to take. You just have to take a few precautions and you’ll be safe. If you’re still uneasy about traveling Europe alone and don’t have a travel partner, you can use a tour company that caters directly to younger travelers. A quick Google search will pull up many.
PS. Rome is an awesome city and well worth visiting!